REVIEW: Puerto Muerto: ...Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore
Puerto Muerto: ...Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore [Action Driver, 2001]
Three words? Pirate Love Songs
The husband and wife duo of Puerto Muerto are truly a diamond in the haystack. ...Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore! seems to have everything working against it: and this makes the record an even more pleasant surprise. With an album title (and to a lesser extent, a band name) that seems more appropriate for thrash metal, and a label that otherwise releases hardcore records, Puerto Muerto's debut full length (after a couple of self released EPs) is a wonderful and bizzarely enchanting collection. These are - and I'm not joking - inspired pirate songs and war battle cries that carefully traverse the fence between parody and sincerity. The songs have a dark, tongue-in-cheek humour to them, but that doesn't come at the cost of the serious musicianship found here.
Like a solider gone AWOL through Europe, drifting from town to town and experiencing the local culture, Puerto Muerto's influences are all over the map. The opening, tumbling riff of "Silver Shoes" seems at home on a long lost Johnny Cash recording. The second track immediately switches gears, with Christina Meyer singing the extremely catchy chorus: "I aye / I fight the Spanish reign / The brutes the killers the slaves / I aye / I fight the English too / They too, are much the same." It's a wonderful sea-chanty rhythm that somehow reminded me of similar moments on the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs. "Das Vidania" is a Spanish-inflected lullaby about harlots discussing "croquet and their boyfriends at war." "Anabelle/Sorrow" is easily the best track on the album, merging a simple folk melody and a dirge-like death-march (with a lovely organ hook) into something dark and slowly affecting. With this song, Puerto Muerto prove themselves to be more than mere novelty. Beneath all of the storybook fun, there is deep involvement and an intense emotional sincerity.
The treasures to be found on this disc are numerous, unearthed with each listen. From clever lyrics about soldiers and pirates (that you'll soon find yourself humming), to instrumentation that ranges from quietly strummed acoustic guitar to drums that like rifles and cannon shots, ...Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore would no doubt have found its way to my top ten list last year. Puerto Muerto are among some of the recent indie-country artists (Nina Nastasia and Ugly Casanova come to mind) taking the genre to a different level. By mixing foreign traditional music and American roots influences, they create something new and exciting. Look for my review of their 2003 full length, Elena, coming soon. In the meantime, hunt this CD down – it is well worth the effort.